The House of Commons on Tuesday began debate on a proposal to legalize gay marriage in England and Wales.

Debate on the measure, introduced last month by MP Maria Miller in the lower chamber, began at about 1PM, and has lasted almost 5 hours.

What is clear is that Conservatives are deeply divided on the issue.

“This bill in no way makes a requirement of faithfulness from same-sex couples,” MP Nadine Dorries said. “In fact, it does the opposite.”

“In a heterosexual marriage a couple can divorce for adultery, and adultery is if you have sex with a member of the opposite sex. In a heterosexual marriage a couple vow to forsake all others … A gay couple have no obligation to make a vow [to faithfulness] because they do not have to forsake all others because they cannot divorce for adultery. There is no requirement of faithfulness. And if there is no requirement of faithfulness, what is a marriage?”

MP Yvette Cooper answered that question, telling colleagues that marriage was about commitment.

“As people live longer, the family commitments involved in marriage are much wider than bringing up children.”

“Most MPs will know the sadness but also the inspiration they have drawn from visiting a married couple where for example the wife is now struggling to cope, struggling to remember the world around her and struggling to recognize even the husband she has shared decades of her life with. Yet he carries on. Cooking for her, washing her, getting her up, putting her to bed, talking to her even as she becomes a stranger in front of him. That is marriage.”

“But I also visited a gay man who died some years ago, after a long illness in which he was cared for every day – at home, in hospital and eventually in a hospice - by his long term gay partner. I don't see why that can’t be marriage too.”

“The idea that the biology of procreation should deny same sex couples the respect that comes with marriage, is to ignore the full richness, the happiness but also the tragedies of modern family life For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. That is marriage.”

MP Peter Bone disagreed, saying that this was the saddest day of his career as an MP.

Another opponent, MP Gerald Howarth, called the process to approve the bill a “sham.”

“I am not a Tory modernizer. I believe marriage can only be between a man and a woman and I shall not surrender my principles. I believe this bill is wrong, the consultation process was a complete sham, it is opposed by the established church, it has caused deep and needless divisions within the Conservative party, there is no mandate for it, there are huge potential consequences, not least the prospect of endless legal challenge, and the nation faces much more serious challenges which the government needs to address. I therefore hope and pray that this measure will be rejected, if not in this place, in the other place.”